My name is Sergio Santagada. I have been the artwork chief for the X-Plane flight simulator for almost 9 years.
My role within X-Plane is to create everything that is "visible" in the flight simulator. This includes the interface, global world scenery, sky, weather effects, light effects, buildings, towns, airports, terminals, forests, trees, ships, trains, cars, bridges, roads, and of course, (being a flight simulator), airplanes, helicopters, cockpits and instruments and so on ... In brief , I am responsible for textures and 3D objects.
I work on a Macintosh platform and X-Plane uses the png format for textures (to allow alpha blending) and has a unique 3D object format.
For textures I have found over the years that Photoshop, although expensive, is the best tool for this task.
However, for 3D objects I had spent years trying to find an application that was not too expensive, yet was easy to use, had a short learning curve, was customizable, and fully documented, so that it would be simple to create plug-ins for the X-Plane object format.
I tried several Mac-friendly 3D applications. At the beginning I used Object-Maker, a simple free tool created for X-Plane by Christian Franz. After about three years Chris stopped work on the application when the X-Plane 3D file format changed.
As I was consequently stuck on developing 3D objects, I started to research a new 3D application that would meet my needs;
Lightwave: too expensive and I found it really hard to familiarize myself with it. It was almost impossible to import/export to X-Plane.
Cinema 4D: yes, powerful, but again too expensive and with an overwhelmingly long learning curve.
Blender: well yes it is free, but so cryptic that I had to abandon it after days of trying to learn it. I still hear the groans of my poor old brain trying to understand that "terrible" interface.
SketchUp: easy to use, but the full version was still too expensive. Furthermore, it was almost impossible to export an object with texture mapping, and it had no control on the number of polygons (important for a game/simulation), so again not what I needed.
Finally, just over two years ago I discovered AC3D: easy to use, cheap, for Mac/Windows and Linux, good interface, fully documented, customizable and with a learning curve that I can affirm in 2 days I was already able to make almost everything. Thanks to Ben Supnik’s plug-in I could open the X-Plane 3D format with a double click and export to any other file format including X-Plane.
I was so happy with AC3D that I got in touch with the developers, and discovered that AC3D is not only a great application but has great people behind it. An excellent working relationship then began; I have never found developers so kind and willing to help me on my huge X-Plane task.
After almost 2 years of intensive use of AC3D I can confirm that AC3D is the best and definitive application for any game or simulation developer.
Anything you can imagine you would like to do within a simulator, AC3D is able to do; X-Plane animations, light effects, airplanes, characters, any vehicles you could imagine, instruments, architecture, entire towns: AC3D is the answer .
Sergio Santagada, Artwork Chief, X-Plane
For more great examples of Sergio's X Plane work, see:
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